Anemia Causes and Risk Factors

Anemia is a blood disorder that occurs when the body does not have enough red blood cells (RBCs), a common type of blood cell which is responsible to deliver oxygen around the body.

Anemia blood count

When you don’t have enough RBCs or the level of hemoglobin in your blood is low, your body doesn’t get the oxygen it needs. As a result, you may feel tired or have other symptoms.

Anemia is the most prevalent blood condition in the United States, affecting more than 3 million Americans. It can range from mild to severe. Although many anemia cases are mild and easily treated, some forms are severe and can even be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated appropriately.

What are the Causes of Anemia?

There are three main categories of the causes of anemia:

1. Blood loss

Anemia caused by blood loss due to:

  • Menstrual bleeding
  • Gastrointestinal conditions such as hemorrhoids, stomach ulcers, gastritis or cancer
  • Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen

2. Decreased production of red blood cells

Anemia caused by decreased or faulty red blood cell productions due to:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Vitamin deficiency such as deficiency of vitamin B-12
  • Diseases such as leukemia
  • Inherited conditions such as sickle cell anemia
  • Bone marrow and stem cell disorders such as thalassemia, an inherited blood disorders in which the body makes an abnormal form of hemoglobin

3. Destruction of red blood cells

Anemia caused by the destruction of red blood cells due to:

  • Infections
  • Severe hypertension
  • Clotting disorders
  • Autoimmune attack for instance hemolytic disease
  • Certain drugs for instance antibiotics

What are the Risk Factors of Anemia?

Factors that increase your risk for anemia include:

  • A diet lacking in certain nutrients. Having a diet that is consistently low in iron, vitamin B-12 and folate increases your risk of anemia.
  • Intestinal disorders. Having an intestinal disorder, such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease, that affects the absorption of nutrients in your small intestine puts you at risk of anemia.
  • Pregnancy. If you’re pregnant and aren’t taking a multivitamin with folic acid, you’re at an increased risk of anemia.
  • Chronic diseases. If you have cancer, kidney failure or another chronic diseases, you may be at risk of anemia of chronic disease. That’s because these conditions can cause the body unable to produce enough red blood cells.
  • Age. People over age 65 are at increased risk of anemia.
  • Family history. The risk of getting anemia is higher if your family has a history of an inherited anemia such as sickle cell anemia.
  • Other factors. A history of certain infections, blood diseases, autoimmune disorders, menstruation, and the use of some medications that can affect red blood cell production and lead to anemia.

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